8 killed in Somalia amid government, insurgent battles

By Guled Mohamed

MOGADISHU, June 20 (Reuters) - At least eight people, among them three children, died in Mogadishu in a spate of apparent insurgent attacks against the Somali interim government and its Ethiopian allies, residents said on Wednesday.

One policeman died in an attack on a military camp by gunmen on Wednesday morning, hours after seven people died when Ethiopian soldiers fired their guns after a roadside bomb exploded near one of their two passing trucks, residents said.

"Ethiopian troops riding from the other truck started firing indiscriminately killing three children. The children were in a house made of iron sheets," resident Adan Hussein told Reuters.

Four other bystanders also died in the attack late on Tuesday, he said.

The interim government and Ethiopian military officials had no immediate comment. But residents often accuse Somali and Ethiopian soldiers of firing indiscriminately after bomb blasts, which are increasingly frequent in the chaotic capital city.

Fighters from a militant Islamist movement that briefly controlled southern Somalia and Mogadishu until the government and Ethiopia drove them out over the New Year have been waging a persistent insurgency since then.

They have delivered on threats to run an Iraq-style insurgency, replete with roadside bombs, assassinations and suicide bombings -- a first in a nearly all-Muslim nation that has long practised a tolerant form of Islam.

Government and Ethiopian soldiers and officials from President Abdullahi Yusuf's interim administration are in the crosshairs most often.

In Wednesday's attack on the Horsed military camp, gunmen blasted away at soldiers with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles and prompted police officers from the nearby Hodan station to respond.

"Fierce fighting broke out for close to 30 minutes. One officer was killed. We don't know whether one of the gunmen was wounded. We found a lot of blood where the gunmen were firing at us from," Hodan commanding officer Adan Sheikh Hassan said.

In Horuwa, a northern Mogadishu neighbourhood that is an Islamist stronghold, gunmen overnight threw grenades at the police post there, which was the site of a gunbattle that killed one police officer the day before.

It was not clear if there were casualties, residents said.

Restoring security in Mogadishu is the top priority of Yusuf's government, the 14th attempt at establishing nationwide rule in a Horn of Africa country in anarchy since 1991's ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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